In March, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration announced that it had received 359 reports of women with breast implants who developed ALCL, and that at least nine women have died as a result of this cancer.
“All of the information to date suggests that women with breast implants have a very low but increased risk of developing anaplastic large-cell lymphoma compared to women who do not have breast implants,” the FDA said in its safety announcement. The announcement came six years after the FDA initially mentioned a link between the implants and ALCL, but at the time lacked the data it has now.
Specifically, this rate of developing ALCL is about 65 times higher for women with breast implants than for women without, according to a January 2017 study.
There Could Be Many More Unreported Cases of BIA-ALCL
This report from the FDA is especially worrisome because breast augmentation is the most common cosmetic procedure performed in our country. Approximately 290,647 breast augmentation surgeries were performed in 2016, according to the Plastic Surgery Foundation.
Because BIA-ALCL victims were diagnosed five to 10 years after receiving their implants on average, according to that same January 2017 study, there could potentially be many unreported or developing cases of BIA-ALCL.
What is Breast Implant-Associated ALCL?
Although ALCL has been linked to breast implants, it is not a form of breast cancer. ALCL is a rare, deadly, and aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a type of blood cancer involving the white blood cells, known as lymphocytes.
White blood cells typically fight infection in the body, but in victims of ALCL, these lymphocytes become cancerous and form tumors in the lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, and other essential organs, according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation.
The initial symptoms of ALCL include fever, backache, swelling of lymph nodes, loss of appetite, and fatigue.
Symptoms specifically linked to BIA-ALCL include:
- Seroma (build-up of fluid)
These BIA-ALCL symptoms often occur years after the implant surgery. If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to record them and visit your healthcare provider immediately. This information will be important if you choose to take part in a lawsuit.
Textured Implants Increase Risk of BIA-ALCL
Noted in the FDA’s medical devices report was the higher occurrence of BIA-ALCL among women with textured implants.
Of the 359 reports of BIA-ALCL, only 231 of the cases had information about the type of implant the patient received. Of these 231 women, 203 had textured implants and 28 had smooth implants, according to the medical devices report.
“At this time, most data suggest that BIA-ALCL occurs more frequently following implantation of breast implants with textured surfaces rather than those with smooth surfaces,” explained the FDA in their report.